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Budget Launch, Aerial Video Balloon

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Picture of Budget Launch, Aerial Video Balloon
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The Hackerspace I "work" at Quelab.net just marked its 1 year open point.  Woohoo!!!!  And so we thought about combining our usual monthly/bimonthly event with a bit of a larger scale project.  And that was to fly a balloon with a camera.

But we have a pretty limited budget and a short time frame to get it done.  Here is how it went, (still uploading the video to youtube as i write this).  Sadly the video is not as good as i hoped,  the wind had picked back up, so its loud,  and very jiggly.

I didn't know at the time of planning this that there was a contest about launching things  (does it hurt your chances to mention a contest in an entry??) I found the contest when making my mini instructable on making "LED Flyies" But I did stay up the night after our big event to write this up and post if because the deadline is 11pm tomorrow!

Video of the flight and some still photos can be seen on the last page of this Instructible!
 
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Step 1: The Parts

Picture of The Parts
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1 36" latex balloon, $3.85 got it at (balloonsfast.com)
1 Tank of helium ( was able to borrow my dad's otherwise rent one.  the disposable tanks are overpriced)
1 6"x6"  square of foam-core board.
1 spy pen video camera. $30
1 Kite reel (i had one already, but they go for about $4)
1 postcard $0.25 and $0.29 stamp
1 ziploc bag.
1 Dollar bill (prize)
1 sticker prize.
Tape,  used both scotch and 3m double sided sticky tape
CCube553 months ago
I saw an rv with smoke comeing out of it......
Jadtrack6 months ago
Does the camera upload to a computer or Idevice as it's filming ?
killbox (author)  Jadtrack6 months ago
Sadly no, it just locally recorded, which is why it was on a string, and also sadly why we had to send it up twice, had not pressed the button well enough and it was not recording the first time.

there are some new wireless cameras folks could use, but probably not as cheap still.
Sadly, 5 days later reportedly a blue latex balloon caused a 747 to crash killing everyone onboard... Just kidding, nice job though! I'v always wanted to try this! Great job!
that's not funny, seriously you think plane crashes are funny?
I don't really find that funny at all, but to each his own.
mybluevan2 years ago
As far as the questions on FAA regulations are concerned, check out http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&rgn=div5&view=text&node=14:2.0.1.3.15&idno=14 for full information. But generally speaking for tethered balloons like this you're good if you keep it below 150 ft.

Also, for those interested in this project, be sure to look into near space ballooning as well. The video/photos from that are even more stunning.
killbox (author)  mybluevan2 years ago
That is the same faa guideline i looked over, and it has nothing about the limited size of the balloons i used, its talking about. "that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet."

My balloon had a rated cubic footage of 5.5 feet. if you look at the w6xe link above you can see he went and did a big job of playing phone tag, and was unable to find any regulations.
That's an excellent point that I forgot about. The applicability section that you're quoting would mean that FAR 101 doesn't apply to your balloon and that you can legally fly it at any height as long as you do so in a safe manner that doesn't cause a hazard to others.

I found a good discussion of this topic here.

However, in practical application the FAA will most likely want to have a word with you if you're flying it over 500ft or anywhere near an airport. They'll probably consider it hazardous at that point. (think helicopters or small planes running into it) Double check with the local Air Traffic Control if you're unsure.
you people care way too much about the law
Mr.What2 years ago
Can we try that camera on a small electric RC plane?
killbox (author)  Mr.What2 years ago
Sure, as soon as i figure out where I lost it. ...
tmacris2 years ago
There is some good information on balloon cameras at Public Laboratory. They are doing mapping work. Check it out: http://publiclaboratory.org/home
im thinking of somthing simlar but for caving (looking at very high cellings)
Great idea! but the helium tank is going to be a bit heavy to lug around in a cave, I would think.
no if you have a small tank it is less weight
mperrault12 years ago
A picavet would steady your camera and can be done very cheaply
killbox (author)  mperrault12 years ago
indeed i may look into one but it would ultimately have to be under about 6 grams.

not sure it would have helped so much, our wind was pretty strong, and most of the cause of jitter. it it was a free flying balloon i think it would have happily floated on the wind.
ferjanyen2 years ago
Hi, I love the idea of the camera in the balloon but you need to gimbals like on a ship compass, you may need thee balloons then, to take the weight.
Good luck, ferjanyen@hotmail.com
techno guy2 years ago
Where can I get a camera for this since I don't have a spy pen and I'm not going to buy one online. Is there a webcam I could use that costs less than $10?
search ebay for "Key chain spy cam" or search for "808 key chain cam" they can be bought for under $10 us and shoot decent video and stills. We use them on RC planes all the time.
killbox (author)  techno guy2 years ago
I have seen small little keychain cameras that could work, (sold at places like wallgreens/cvs, for under $20) but they don't do video so you would need to rig up a remote or timer.

CVS might still have their little single use video camera, but i suspect unless you can disassemble it and lighten the load, (and possibly run it off of small lithium batteries.

lesizz2 years ago
Got an answer from another 'varker regarding the FAA question, may be helpful to you:
From: NearSpaceLuke
Date: Aug 4, 2011. 11:34 AM

Have a read through Part 101 of the FAA regulations (http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=0015298167b8f9c20466c9f35990f07c&rgn=div5&view=text&node=14:2.0.1.3.15&idno=14). There's a ton of useful information in there, but pay particular attention to Subpart A and Subpart D. It's not that much reading, so don't be scared. The general answer is that a small enough payload doesn't have any restrictions...currently. You should still try to keep your flight out of high traffic areas, away from airports, and file a NOTAM report with air traffic control.
bajablue2 years ago
What an ingenius way to spy on your neighbors... as long as they don't own a pellet gun! ;-D
lesizz2 years ago
I don't know what the altitude limit is, but at some point an FAA permit is required, lest your project get swallowed by the intake of a 747.
Back in the early '70s I was flying a 6-foot box kite by the Berkeley marina, and my string almost got caught in the rotor of a helicopter. I still have pictures from the marina taken from a Brownie camera mounted on the kite.
killbox (author)  lesizz2 years ago
Thats a tough question, if we do it again we will look harder into whom to contact, The FAA was effectively shut down during this period, making verification difficult

The balloon falls well below their PART 101 - MOORED BALLOONS, KITES, UNMANNED ROCKETS AND UNMANNED FREE BALLOONS, stated sizes and payload and even height of the moored balloon, so i think this slips under the legal requirements. (but im not a lawyer so check for yourselves!)

This is not only my own interpretation but also of this guys
http://www.w6xe.net/~jmeehan/balloon/


Get a GoPro camera.
They have video stabilization.

Made for stuff like this.
Might break the budget, but you would get way better videos.
ZoDo2 years ago
Great ideea. Needs a little more work but it's amazing. Keep it up
dchall82 years ago
Have you looked at ways to stabilize the camera?
killbox (author)  dchall82 years ago
yes, if i do it again, there are a few things. like waiting for a nice calm low wind day! (wanted to get it up for a big event we were having, but we had wind and walking rainstorms all afternoon. ) and there are a variety of gimbled camera mounts for things like kite photography, that could be adapted. though weight is a real concern. I think less wind, more time and care given to reeling it out slowly. and tying it off when reeled out. and reeling it in more smoothly. (possibly through a pully. possibly putting a tail on the camera platform to keep it pointed a single direction (if there is a breeze) Bandaid over the microphone too to help block wind.

robodude952 years ago
did you have to get any clearance for the launch?? thnx
robodude952 years ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfgOYsWnisk

something like ur project...hope it helps!!=)
I'd like to try this too... Your project is awesome,,, did you have to get clearance from the FAA?
mirogster2 years ago
Awesome idea&instructable. BUT you should aim higher ;) Have you heard about Near Space programs ?? :) It's even more interesting!
killbox (author)  mirogster2 years ago
Indeed, as budgets allow, i suspect we are going to be doing atleast a track-able balloon launch in the future. Not sure how many 1000 feet the 36" balloon will be good for before it pops though, we are already starting at about 5000'
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